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Cultural Landscapes BlogWP5: How can we maintain our cultural landscapes in the future?

WP5: How can we maintain our cultural landscapes in the future?

12 Oct 2016 - 16:17/by Nynke Schulp/Tags: landscape change, scenario, policies, abandonment, peri-urbanization

Cultural landscapes are under threat of disappearance. Many cultural landscapes are defined by a structure that is labor intensive, a low level of intensity that makes them less competitive on a global-scale market, yet a high value and meaning to society that is, however, difficult to quantify, and therefore difficult to manage. How could the cultural landscapes of Europe look in the future? What are the large-scale processes steering these changes? How do these work out with decisions of land owners? In WP5, we addressed these questions using scenario analysis, modelling landscapes changes at EU scale and landscape scale, and consultation of stakeholders through surveys and workshops.
WP5: How can we maintain our cultural landscapes in the future?

At a European scale, it is often assumed that the level of globalization and the level of governmental regulation assemble the processes that change landscapes. We analyzed which land change trajectories could influence cultural landscapes under extreme scenarios of these two main drivers. This study showed that cultural landscapes, characterized by their special structure, low-intensity use, and meaning to society, are more prone to change than other landscapes. Particularly decrease of intensity, eventually devolving into abandonment, is a large risk in remote cultural landscapes. More accessible cultural landscapes are clearly more prone to urbanization and peri-urbanization than other landscapes. The assumed level of governmental intervention and focus on globalization make a large difference. Especially a regionally focused scenario limited abandonment and peri-urbanization in cultural landscapes.

To find out how these changes work out on the ground in “real” landscapes, we went to two classical European cultural landscapes where we simulated changes in the local landscapes under a few contrasting scenarios. The scenarios combined factors influencing the region externally with local initiatives. Devon in Southwest England, characterized by its extensive hedgerow network which is highly valuable to society, and Lesbos in Greece, characterized by traditional olive farming on stone terraces. In both landscapes, farmers are struggling to obtain sufficient income from their farms. In Devon, scale enlargement is ongoing and expected to continue the coming decades, which goes at the cost of the hedgerows as production driven farmers tend to be less careful in their hedgerow management. A future scenario with restrictions on the land market and more attractive agri environmental schemes could reduce, but not reverse, the hedgerow decline. Only when combined with a local initiative where biofuel production from hedge clippings made hedgerow management more attractive, hedgerow quality can be maintained or increased. In the Lesbos case, the lack of profitability of the olive farming triggers farmers to quit farming or to abandon their fields. Maintaining subsidies can limit the abandonment, but only scenarios with integrated landscape initiatives, taken through the whole olive sector, can reverse the abandonment, and with that support the continuation of traditional olive farming. In both landscapes, the scenarios were discussed with stakeholders who recognized that both the contrasting, extreme situations were realistic.

Both in the study landscapes and at European scale, the policies influencing the land managers or the land use changes had a strong impact on the simulated future landscapes. In both case studies, a combination of external regulations and locally specific policies could reverse the trend of loss of landscape quality and in the European scale scenarios, the scenarios with a high level of governmental intervention accomplished the same. These studies at two different scales suggest that maintaining cultural landscapes as productive, living landscapes that retain their value to society, is favoured by a policy framework that enables or stimulates region specific solutions. 


Picture: Devon, Southwest England

Tell Us What You Think:

R.C. Zimmermann

12 Oct 2016 - 16:17

I trust you have reviewed the experience with other cases of landscape conservation/restoration, notably French experience with "bocage" modernization ("narrow-mesh" to "wide-mesh" transition) and restoration (mainly for the environmental benefits of hedgerows)
(cf. Baudry, J., and Jouin, A., 2003, De la haie au bocages. Organisation, dynamique et gestion. Paris: Editions de l'INRA, as a starting point).
The Italians have also experimented with "modern coltura promiscua" in Tuscany, and with the conservation of the "alberata padana" in the Po Valley, again combining agronomic improvements with the retention of environmental benefits from traditional features. Switzerland, through the work of the Swiss Foundation for Landscape Protection and Planning, has considerable experience with actual
reconciliation of modernity with the conservation of traditional landscapes. The Dutch have used modern drainage improvements to maintain or restore traditional features of the landscape.

The information and views set out in this Cultural Landscapes Blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the HERCULES project nor the European Commission.

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